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Virginia grabs repeat conference title

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-The Virginia men's lacrosse team must be starting to like the idea of playing at Maryland's Byrd Stadium.

After winning last year's NCAA Championship at the stadium and defeating the Terps there earlier this year, the Cavs returned to Byrd this weekend and beat North Carolina and Maryland to capture the ACC Tournament title.

"I like playing on this field," senior midfielder Jay Jalbert said. "I think it's a home away from home."

ACC Tournament
Quarterfinals: Virginia 17 - UNC 16
ACC Championship: Virginia 11 - Maryland 7

"It was a great, great win for us," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "Maryland played hard and played a great game. For us to come back in here this weekend and beat two quality teams like this is really significant for the program."

The Terrapins (8-4) had scored five goals in a row to cut the Cavalier lead to 8-7 in the fourth quarter when freshman attackman A.J. Shannon scored to give the Cavs the cushion they needed.

"I think we just got out of our rhythm a little bit," said sophomore attackman Conor Gill, the tournament MVP. "We didn't knock down some shots that we usually do. You're going to go through those kinds of things during a game, and we broke out of it at the end."

Gill led the Cavaliers with five points on one goal and four assists, including the assist on Shannon's crucial tally.

Jalbert and Ian Shure scored two goals each in the finals. Gill, Jalbert and Shure were joined on the All-Tournament team by sophomore defenseman Mark Koontz.

"I think that over the course of last year and this year, teams [that have played us more than once] have come back on us a lot," Jalbert said. "But the leadership of the older guys really took over. When they started coming back, we stepped up our game."

The Cavs wouldn't have even made the finals if not for a stunning comeback in the semifinals against fourth-seeded Carolina (7-5) Friday.

Down 16-13 with five minutes remaining, the Cavaliers scored the next three goals to force overtime, and then won it on Shure's acrobatic goal with 11 seconds remaining in the second extra period. Shure took a pass from Koontz at midfield, then beat a defender and put the ball past Tar Heel goalie Kris Blindenbacher to steal the sudden-death victory.

Shure's heroics were vindication for the sophomore attackman, who watched last year's NCAA Championship from the sidelines while redshirting with a serious knee injury.

"It feels unbelievable," Shure said. "Sitting all of last year, watching everything go by, supporting the team and watching from the sidelines is such a tough thing to do. Now that I'm out there, I'm able to be more a part of the team."

Starsia said that the close games will help the Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament, which will come after Virginia finished its regular season against Ohio State and Butler.

Related Links
  • CD men's lacrosse coverage
  • Maryland men's lacrosse
  • North Carolina men's lacrosse